By: Stephen Case – Staff Writer – email@example.com
The UNC Asheville women’s soccer team returned home 0-2 in conference play after shutout losses on the road to Longwood and Liberty.
The Bulldogs suffered their first Big South Conference loss to Longwood University on Thursday night.
“Tonight was a tale of two teams,” Head Coach Michelle Demko said after the loss. “We were poor in the first half with regard to our commitment in the attack and defending our 18-yard box.”
Longwood scored four goals in the first 21 minutes of the game and never looked back as they cruised to a 4-0 win. Kelsey Pardue recorded two goals and two assists to lead the Lancers to victory.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Eckert led UNCA with three shots on goal, while the Bulldogs were outshot for the game, 10-9.
The Bulldogs have 11 freshmen playing significant minutes each game. This gives hope for the future of the program, according to senior team member Mary Beale.
“We have a lot of young blood on this team,” Beale said. “We really need to work on speed of play and the knowledge of the game, which comes with age. We are asking our freshmen to grow up faster than they should, but that just happens when you have a young team.”
Even with all of this young blood, players and coaches say they see the tenacity and heart these girls exhibit each and every game.
Demko said it was really good to watch the girls fight and insert themselves on their opponents. They did a much better job initiating the attack from their outside defenders, as well as create chances in the final third, Demko said.
This was Longwood’s first ever Big South Conference win, as this is their first year in the conference.
The Bulldogs remained on the road to travel to Liberty University for their second conference game of the season. The Lady Flames defeated UNCA 2-0 in a game riddled with good defense, according to Demko.
“Today’s result was disappointing, as we played a very good game for 90 minutes,” Demko said. “We created some good opportunities but were unable to capitalize on them. I am proud of how we came out and sustained a high level for 90 minutes.”
Liberty got an early goal from Lauren Stell in minute 15 of the game to give the home team a 1-0 advantage. UNCA kept themselves in the game through the goalkeeping of sophomore Heather Muller, who recorded eight saves for the game.
The game was put away late by the feet of Geena Swentik, as she scored the second goal of the game in minute 77. UNCA was outshot 21-9 for the game.
“I think the thing the team can take away from this weekend is that we must give it our all for the full 90 minutes,” sophomore Amanda Dailor said. “From the first whistle to the last, we cannot let down.”
After an 0-2 conference start, Demko knows there are things her team needs to improve on as the season progresses.
“We need to continue to work on playing wide,” Demko said. “When we play wide, we are able to solve our opponents’ pressure and give us time and space to play. We also need to continue to be better in the final third of the field.”
With a record of 2-8, the Bulldogs come home this week to continue conference play at Greenwood Field. UNCA hosts VMI Thursday at 3 p.m. and then welcomes defending conference champion Radford on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.